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Signs are emerging that the job market is picking up, but landing a new position can still be a challenge. The last thing you want to do is sabotage your employment search, and, since your résumé is typically the first impression that hiring managers have of you, it's also the first place where you can potentially ruin your chances.
According to a survey conducted by Robert Half International, executives spend more than six minutes, on average, screening each résumé they receive -- which means every word counts in this critical document.
Of course, no job seeker is going to shoot himself or herself in the foot on purpose. But you might be harming yourself without realizing it. Here are five common mistakes that put you at risk of losing the job opportunity:
1. You don't proofread
Three out of four executives interviewed said just one or two typos in a résumé would remove applicants from consideration for a job. Since your word processing program has a spell-check function, you may think there's no need to review your résumé for typos and grammatical errors. Unfortunately, spell-checkers don't catch words that may be spelled correctly but used incorrectly: For example, if your most recent position was as a corporate blogger, your software may not raise the red flag if you mistakenly list yourself as a "logger." In addition to reading through the résumé yourself, you should also have someone else review it to catch any errors that you may have overlooked.
2. You ignore potential red flags
When reviewing your résumé, imagine that it belongs to someone else. After reading through it, would you have questions about the information provided or be concerned by a lack of details? If you have these thoughts, rest assured potential employers will, too. For instance, one of the biggest red flags is a gap in employment that goes unexplained. Rather than make a hiring manager wonder why you were away from the workplace for an extended period of time, use your cover letter to address why you weren't working and how you continued to advance your career through volunteer opportunities, professional development courses or other means.
3. You exaggerate your qualifications
Some people will do whatever they can to stand out, which includes fudging the details about a job title, the amount of time spent with an employer or a professional accomplishment. If you think that a hiring manager won't try to confirm your qualifications, think again. If you are caught making up information, you not only will lose out on the opportunity at that company but also may permanently harm your reputation. Even a small fib can prove harmful. For instance, if you're working toward a degree that you plan to complete by the summer, don't say you already have the credential.
4. You don't explain yourself
The best résumés use specific language so hiring managers can clearly understand your qualifications and accomplishments. If you say you are "knowledgeable" about HTML, an employer will not know if you use it every day to code Web pages or if you simply know that the acronym stands for Hyper Text Markup Language. Instead of using a vague term, you should explain how you've used your knowledge of HTML for certain projects or to aid your employer, how long you've been using it and if you possess any relevant certifications. Along the same lines, be specific when listing periods of employment, including the month and year for start and end dates instead of just the year.
5. You're too wordy
Sometimes it's difficult to determine what information belongs in your résumé and what can be safely left out. After all, the temptation is to describe any qualification that might remotely tip the scales in your favor. But you might not want to list every accomplishment, skill or project you've worked on. Hiring managers appreciate brevity, so cull the information you include, focusing on the aspects of your work history that are most relevant to the job for which you're applying. If you've had a long career, for instance, you may include fewer details about jobs you held early on that don't relate to your current career path. Omit hobbies, personal facts and other fluff, too.
Robert Half International Inc. is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 360 offices worldwide. For more information about our professional services, please visit www.roberthalf.com. For additional career advice, follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/roberthalf.
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